Andy McSmith's Diary: Yet another opportunity for Maggie Thatcher idolatry

Our man in Westminster

The Conservative Party annual conference, which opens this weekend, will be a festival of adulation for Margaret Thatcher. The first item of business when the conference opens at 2pm tomorrow will be a tribute to her. The House of Commons has already had two rounds of tributes since her death on 8 April. This will be another. Do not expect anyone to say anything original.

There will also be signings at the conference bookstall of a book of memories of Thatcher assembled by the publisher, Iain Dale. (Don’t be frightened, you can approach him without any risk of being shoved to the ground: he is a chastened man after Brighton police spoke to him about his recent fracas). Charles Moore will also be signing the authorised biography.

But the best treat for Thatcher devotees will be a larger-than-ever range of Thatcher artefacts and memorabilia, as the party launches its exclusive “Our Maggie” collection on a couple of stands in the conference centre and online at maggiesshop.com.

Oddly, the slogan they have chosen for this venture is “the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money” – which in our times sounds like an observation better directed at the banks. The quotation is often attributed to Thatcher, but it is not what she actually said.

It comes from an interview with Thames TV on 5 February 1976, when she remarked: “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess: they always run out of other people’s money.” Given their reverence for the Iron Lady, you would think they would get it right.

You can’t teach an old  Tory new tweets

I would like to report that the MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, star of the government back benches, has told his Twitter followers: “I am against HS2. A close friend will potentially have his entire estate cut in half by it and the resulting disruption will ruin his view” – but I can’t because he has no followers.

He belongs to an era when people who wished to communicate in writing did so through the penny post. This week he has vouchsafed to the Bath Chronicle that he will never tweet, while acknowledging the existence of a fake account in his name, from which that quotation was taken, which is “much funnier than I could hope to be”.

The fake account,  @JakeReesMogg, has 6,252 followers. The official account of Mr Rees-Mogg’s constituency association in North East Somerset,  @NESConservative, has 61 followers.

Travel perks, but  we pay the fares

If you are a taxpayer, you might like to know that every time a delegate to the Tory conference travels to or from the conference centre in Manchester in the coming week, you are helping to pay.

System One, the part-publicly owned company that runs the travel card system for Manchester’s buses, trams and trains, has done a deal under which all delegates can travel for free.

This has annoyed local trade union leaders, who argue that members of the political party which, they say, is to blame for cuts in funding for public transport, should pay their fares.

Do not expect too much outrage from Labour though, because their delegates had the same perk last year when their conference was in Manchester.

Who can blame Tesco’s risk aversion, muses MEP

“Very sound judgment!” the maverick Tory politician Daniel Hannan tweeted, taking a philosophical view of a setback that most motorists would find quite upsetting. “Tesco won’t extend car insurance to me because I’m an MEP. After the Chris Huhne saga, I can’t blame them.”

‘Crypto-fascist’ taunt lands candidate in hot water

It is a sound rule of politics that whoever calls his opponent a fascist has lost. On that basis alone, without any local knowledge, I predict that the winner of a by-election to fill a vacancy on North Yorkshire County Council will not be the Labour candidate, Rod Price, whom (according to the Yorskhire Post) tweeted that he was running against “a fascist, a crypto-fascist and an independent too right for the latter”.

He apologised and deleted the message after the Conservatives threatened legal action.

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